Sunday, 15 May 2011

Recipe IX - Gratin Dauphinois: an adaptation

The worst thing about cooking is the offence some people will take if a recipe is not followed word-for-word. As far as I am concerned, if cooking is to remain popular, the cook needs to show a little imagination in the kitchen. For that reason, purists and perfectionists in the culinary world, click away now.

1.5kg Potatoes
300ml Crème fraîche
300ml Full cream milk
1 onion (medium-sized) or 1 shallot, cut into small pieces (0.5cm x 0.5cm)
5 cloves of garlic
4 bay leaves
Nutmeg, salt and pepper

The other main ingredient of gratin dauphinois is the cheese. I wish to consider alternatives because, although Gruyère is the standard cheese for this recipe, I think Emmental just as suitable, due to its comparatively less piquant flavour. Maasdamer is also worth using.

Firstly, switch on your oven to about 180°C.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into roundish slices about 5mm thick and 4 to 6cm in diameter. Bigger and you risk having potatoes that are still hard in the middle.
Parboil the potatoes for about 7 minutes in lightly salted water, or until they are still hard but weakened in the middle. Pick one out, hold it to the light. If the outside is lighter than the middle, you have accomplished the task and can drain the water.
Take a ceramic baking dish, and spread a little butter on the bottom. Sprinkle some pepper and nutmeg into the bottom, then place a layer of potato slices on the bottom. Sprinkle some cheese, onion and garlic on it. Put some more potatoes on top, then cheese, onion and garlic once again. Continue the process until all the ingredients are used up, making sure that a last layer of cheese covers the entirety of the topping.
Pour on your crème fraîche and milk. There should be enough to fill the baking dish until almost the top cheese layer.
Put the baking dish in the oven for between 40 and 50 minutes, then turn down the heat for a further 10 minutes.

Alternative ingredients:
You may also consider adding small pieces of leek or some peas to the dish to give it a little bit of colour and take the kick off the salt.

Serve with a pork cutlet or a decent cut of steak, some broccoli and baby carrots or green beans.
A nice bottle of medium dry white wine (with the pork - German Scharzberg, French Alsace) or a soft red (with the steak - Hungarian Balaton, Bulgarian Ruse, Italian Prosecco) will go down very nicely indeed.

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